Busy month ahead for new Washington coach

Updated: December 9, 2008, 7:50 PM ET
Associated Press

SEATTLE -- Scott Woodward might have balked at the idea of Steve Sarkisian trying to split duties for the next month, especially when the task Sarkisian just inherited as the new coach at Washington appears so daunting.

Turning around an 0-12 team needs as much time and attention as possible.

But Woodward, Washington's athletic director, knows it can be done after seeing his friend Bo Pelini do two jobs at once a year ago. While Pelini was getting started at Nebraska he also had the responsibility of being LSU's defensive coordinator in the BCS championship game.

So when Sarkisian requested that he continue as USC's offensive coordinator in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 against Penn State, Woodward gladly said "sure."

"Coach Pelini at Nebraska, he and I talked about his experience last year at LSU as a defensive coordinator while he was the head coach at Nebraska, and it was a positive all the way around," Woodward said. "It actually helped with recruiting, it actually helped him show that he's committed to his current players that he recruited that he's going to finish his job out, and I think it's a fine example for that. So I've encouraged him to do so."

Sarkisian's main task for the next week and a half is getting in contact with as many recruits as possible and making determinations on potential hires for his coaching staff. He got a jump start on Monday afternoon, just hours after his press conference, visiting with the coaches from two Seattle area high schools that recently won state championships and are full of potential recruits. Most notable was his visit to Skyline High School who has two of the top West Coast recruits in the next two years -- quarterback Jake Heaps (class of 2010) and WR Kasen Williams (class of 2011).

Sarkisian mentioned several times during his introduction the need to build a wall around the state of Washington, that the top recruits in the state must stay home. Sarkisian saw that first hand at USC with former Seattle prep star Taylor Mays now an all-Pac-10 first-team performer at safety for the Trojans.

"It's important to get out in the community to a couple of prominent high schools and let the guys know that we're going to be available, we're going to be out, we're going to be trying to keep the talent here in Washington home which I think is extremely important," Sarkisian said Tuesday.

Sarkisian's hiring comes in the midst of an open contact period for colleges to talk with recruits. That window closes on Dec. 21, which is when Sarkisian plans on returning his focus to game planning with USC.

Pelini did the same double dip last year after he was hired at Nebraska on Dec. 2, spending time talking with recruits while also game planning for LSU's date in the national title game against Ohio State.

"I showed last year that it can be done. It all depends on the mindset of the person," Pelini said. "There is enough time to do both and to do it well. You have to be fully committed to coaching for the football team you're still on. The way the system is set up, it lends for you to do that because there's enough time and dead period to give you plenty of time to get your football team ready to play in a game."

Sarkisian has also made decisions regarding some of Tyrone Willingham's assistant coaches, though he wasn't ready to announce any of those moves on Tuesday.

"Some guys have been released from their duty but I'm not ready to touch on that yet," Sarkisian said.

The Seattle Times reported that offensive coordinator Tim Lappano and running backs coach Steve Gervais won't be back. A message left for Lappano by The Associated Press wasn't immediately returned.

The most likely candidates to stay are defensive line coach Randy Hart, who just finished his 21st season at Washington, and linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator Chris Tormey. Sarkisian said he'd likely have decisions made by early next week after he returns from three days of USC practices in Los Angeles.

"This is the part of this business that is not fun, but it's reality," Sarkisian said.

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AP Sports Writer Eric Olson in Lincoln, Neb. contributed to this report


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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